28 February, 2006

Shameless

Well, I'm afraid I have to side with the 'jumped the shark' contingent of Shameless watchers.

In the first series of Shameless you had the writer credit at the beginning but subsequently they have been at the end. I'm not sure if this was deliberate but I found myself watching a very weak episode in series 2 and assuming it was Abbott gone very bad due to the pressure of so many projects to write. At the end I found it wasn't by him after all. All the series 3 episodes were turfed out to other writers. Fair enough, Abbott is very busy (including making a US version of the show) but Shameless is based on his family and his authorial voice is a brand and appointment to view - something we all should aspire to. Now, obviously, there aren't enough writers as good as Abbott to maintain the show's quality but while most people won't notice or won't be bothered by the huge dip in quality it is frustrating considering how classic the first series was.

Am I being too harsh? Well, the series finale by Emma Frost (who has an enviable C.V.) featured the body of a violent husband killed by his wife and buried under the patio. Sound familiar? Yes, the most famous storyline from Brookside ever - which even most non-watchers of the show would be aware of. There was an attempt at some ironic nod when one of the characters said something like "this isn't Brookside" but not only didn't the line make sense but it takes a lot more than one line to turn a tired re-hash into a clever and amusing homage.

In one of the sub-plots a little shy boy is in love with an older girl. Although he offered to find a dress for her in exchange for a kiss, he turns round at the end and, suddenly very articulate and assertive, tells her he doesn't want the kiss any longer because he now sees that she is a user for accepting his offer and now no longer loves her. This is a child remember; a child that did an emotional and character volte-face at such a pace, time started going backward.

I used to say that you can learn a lot from poor drama. Certainly learnng to avoid in your writing the things that bugged you, like the inconsistent characterisation, weak plotting and cliche dialogue found in that episode, would help as script readers are annoyingly less forgiving to new writers than script editors working to a tight deadline on a major primetime drama. But, seriously, you learn a whole lot more from the good stuff. Like Life on Mars. More anon.

On the other hand, I could be wrong:

"So to Shameless and the end of the third series. Can it possibly have sustained that rare, almost exclusively Paul Abbottish, ability to mix award-winning critical acclaim with crowd-pleasing popularity, of the sort to which your Stephen Poliakoffs can only aspire?

Well, yes, it can and it has. The last episode of this series had pretty much everything you'd look for in a classic Shameless - big laughs, warmth and vulgarity in equal measures, not to mention lots of icky stuff from Frank (obviously if he'd been christened Jack, the omnipresent stubble would be infinitely sexier and Baueresque) - even though Abbott has long since delegated the bulk of the writing." Kathryn Flett, The Observer

Shameless writer Danny Brocklehurst on the right to offend.
Gives a good insight into how stories are generated and considered.

Shameless writer Bob Mills interview
I wished I'd seen his episode as I've admired his work although they've been under-rated and under-rating in the past.

Down the Welly with the real Gallaghers
Hack goes to Manc pub with hilarious consequences.

Paul Abbott Independent interview
Although I'm curious why if he has so many series worth of stories to use for the show, why they're relying on old famous soap storylines.


26 February, 2006

The Royal Television Society Annual Awards

I would quite like the cancelled too soon Bodies to win Drama Series and the cancelled too soon Peep Show to win Sitcom & Comedy Drama (although The Thick of It is very good). It would also be nice for Brian Dooley of the Smoking Room to get some recognition for his under-rated and under-appreciated excellent writing.

The irony is that two public service networks have cancelled Bodies and Peep Show for low ratings despite their high quality. Isn't the point, with the BBC at least, that I don't complain about the likes of Casualty as long as well-written shows are available as an alternative?

Paul Abbott is up for best writer and best drama series for Shameless which was a bit of a surprise as he didn't write any in the last series but I realised this must be for the one or two he did write of series 2. Anyway Shameless has been re-commissioned for a new series but I decided not to bother watching after the waste of time that was the non-Abbott episodes of series 2 knowing that series 3 would be Abbott-free.

Actually I did force myself to watch the series finale, after I heard conflicting views on the new series: "Jumped the shark! Terrible!" and "Goes from strength to strength!"

I shall comment on that episode tomorrow.






The RTS Awards will be held on 14 March at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London.

Among the nominations are:

CHILDREN'S DRAMA

My Parents are Aliens - Granada Kids for CiTV
Tracy Beaker BBC Children's - for CBBC
Last Rights Touchpaper Television - for Channel 4


DRAMA SERIAL

Elizabeth I Company Pictures for Channel 4/HBO
To the Ends of the Earth BBC Drama Serials/Power co-production in association with Tightrope Pictures for BBC Two
Bleak House BBC Drama Serials/Deep Indigo for BBC One


DRAMA SERIES

Doctor Who BBC Wales for BBC One
Shameless 2 Company Pictures for Channel 4
Bodies (Series 2) Hat Trick Productions for BBC Three


SINGLE DRAMA

The Government Inspector - Mentorn Productions for Channel 4
A Waste of Shame - BBC Drama Serials for BBC Four
Ahead of the Class - Artists Rights Group Television/World Productions for ITV


SITUATION COMEDY & COMEDY DRAMA

The Thick of It BBC Comedy - for BBC Four
Much Ado About Nothing BBC Drama/BBC Northern Ireland - for BBC One
Peep Show An Objective Production - for Channel 4


SOAP

Coronation Street ITV Productions Manchester - for ITV
Emmerdale ITV Productions Yorkshire - for ITV
EastEnders BBC - for BBC One


WRITER - COMEDY

Brian Dooley - The Smoking Room BBC Comedy - for BBC Three
Sam Bain & Jesse Armstrong - Peep Show - An Objective Production for Channel 4
The Thick of It Writing Team - The Thick of It BBC Comedy for BBC Four


WRITER - DRAMA

Paul Abbott - Shameless 2 Company Pictures - for Channel 4
Andrew Davies - Bleak House BBC Drama Serials/Deep Indigo - for BBC One
Jed Mercurio - Bodies (Series 2) Hat Trick Productions - for BBC Three


23 February, 2006

National Lottery Shares Consultation

When visiting the Film Council website I got confronted by this message:

"Only 2 weeks left to make the case for more money for film.

We’ve got until the end of February to make the case that film should get a bigger share of National Lottery money. Please spare a few minutes of your time to fill in the questionnaire."

OK, I question their maths as I make it less than a week to the end of the February but that's beside the point. The real point is that I didn't fill in the questionnaire at the time. I thought "yeah, I should support British film", then immediately thought, "well, I watch British films in the cinemas and they're mostly rubbish".

However I now recall the outrageously over-the-top media campaign against such funding and, if I have to choose sides, I have to choose to support British film. The most sustained and unjustified campaign was against the film Sex Lives of the Potato Men. It was called the worst film of all time but then some people saw it for themselves and found it was actually quite good. I remember discussions with people who hadn't seen it who were slagging it off:

"But it's not funny."
"I found it funny."
"I heard it wasn't funny."
"So? See it and then you have a right to an opinion."

It was sort of along those lines but with more swearing. Through word-of-mouth, it managed to stay on cinemas longer than the usual week and people made the effort to catch up with it on DVD. I'm not saying it's a classic and it could have done with another re-write but I was entertained and not bored and didn't feel robbed of my time and money.

The Trevor McDonald fronted ITV news show, devoted an episode to slagging off the lottery and loans/grants to film. They gathered together a group of people - none of them in the target group for the film incidentally - and asked them to watch Sex Lives of the Potato Men. Not surprisingly they didn't like it. But somewhat dishonestly, the reporter concluded that money therefore shouldn't have been given to the film as it wasn't popular but he failed to mention that, in the real world, the film was popular enough to be able to pay the money back to the Film Council to be re-invested in other new films.

While winding up scumbag hacks is a good excuse for supporting British Film in itself the Film Council actually presents a very strong case for what they do on the link below. Yes, some money does go to shitty first-draft scripts rushed into production but money also goes to proper well-written films as well and to help prevent every screen in your multiplex being taken up with tedious but well-made Hollywood pap.

You do have to register but the questionnaire only takes about ten minutes to complete.

Deadline: 28 February 2006

The Film Council: Background to the National Lottery Shares Consultation

National Lottery Shares Consultation

Island Script wanted

We are a small, recently formed (2004) London based production company with our first feature film currently in post-production.

We have an investor who is prepared to part-finance a feature film set on a small private island (non-tropical).

We are looking for an island-based screenplay to develop and ultimately finance.

Any genre considered.

Please send log line / one page synopsis ONLY to daryl@silverleafpictures.co.uk

Short Scripts Needed

Irregular Films is a small production company specialising mainly in promos (visit www.irregularfilms.com). We are now looking to produce our next short film 5 - 12mins long and are currently looking for scripts. Any genre and mood will be considered.

Please send to:

Lysander Ashton
Irregular Films
Gatcombe House
19 Heath Rd
Petersfield
GU31 4JE

or email to lysander@irregularfilms.com

22 February, 2006

BlueCat Screenplay Competition 2006

This is the kind of competition I prefer where there is some feedback on your script to enable you to improve, should you not make the final stage.

DEADLINE: 1 March 2006
Entry Fee:
$35

  • Winner is awarded $10,000 cash prize, finalists $1500 each.
  • Every screenwriter receives written script analysis.
  • One finalist receives a staged reading at the High Falls Film Festival in NY.
  • Top screenplays sent to literary agencies and production companies.

SUBMIT Your Screenplay:
http://www.bluecatscreenplay.com/Application/

JOIN newsletter:
http://www.bluecatscreenplay.com/About/news.php

BlueCat Screenplay Competition
Hollywood, CA 90028
http://www.bluecatscreenplay.com

21 February, 2006

Cued Up Playwriting Competition

Aspiring playwrights are being given the chance to see their work performed at Sheffields award-winning theatre The Crucible.

The Off the Shelf Festival of Writing and Reading in Sheffield are working in collaboration with Sheffield Theatres to organise this exciting competition which will be judged by Samuel West, the Artistic Director of Sheffield Theatres. The winner and runner-up will have their work performed in the crucible Studio Theatre in 2006 .

For further details and guidelines please contact Off the Shelf on
0114 273 4716
or email offtheshelf@shefield.gov.ukgiving

Enter now as the closing date is 28th February. You will have to email them as I can find no other details online.

Official website (not updated yet)

Outsider looking for scripts

Outsider Film Sales are looking for fully developed, well-written scripts of any genre that are smart, surprising, and have something truly original to say. Feel free to send a one-page synopsis and logline for your completed script in Word to the e-mail address below. (Please don't send completed scripts.)

Contact Adam Sydney, head of development, at adam@outsiderfilmsales.com.

Outsider Film Sales is a new London- and Vancouver-based sales and production company dedicated to the development, production and marketing of cinema, delivering a commercial, innovative vision to the global market.

This is the only Google result for them:

"Outsider Film Sales is the crucial link between movies being made and appearing in cinemas, on DVDs, videos or mobile phones. This strong team of experienced managers sells international rights for feature films in the £2-£10m budget range typically aimed at the 16-34-year old audience. Outsider has six films under license which are in pre and post production, with two more at an advanced stage in its pipeline. The team is lead by Ryan Bonder, a Canadian film producer and director, who sources the films. Bill Stephens has joined as head of sales, a coup for Outsider as he brings a first class track record as a former head of sales and marketing at Film Four (Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, My Beautiful Launderette). Bill has a vast network, advises on likely hits as well as the most appropriate distributors to market individual films to. Andreas Roald, a polyglot Norwegian who began his career as a youth TV presenter, is head of business affairs and draws on similar experience gained at Scala Productions." December 2005.

Outsider Film Sales is the crucial link between movies being ma

Open Page- A Laboratory For New Writing

Writers. Here’s the chance to test out your work with an informal industry group. Come along to an Open Page evening – hosted by Stellar Network in association with the Hospital - and you can hear your work read by actors cast on the spot. Whether it’s a new idea or a rewritten scene, your piece must be no more than fifteen minutes, and can be written for theatre, radio, TV or film. This is not a showcase but a testing ground, enabling you to hear your words spoken - and get informed feedback.

The upcoming evening is 6th March 2006 at 7 pm.

To apply, please send us a single word file containing: your name and contact details, one paragraph of story synopsis, one paragraph of background for your piece (ie what media is it, what do you want to achieve from the workshop), your 15 minute piece, and a list of characters. Please title the file yournamedate.doc; eg arthurmiller120305.doc. Please don’t include any information in the accompanying email.

The deadline for entries is 24th February. Please send applications to openpage@stellarnetwork.com

If you would like to attend an Open Page evening please send an email to openpage@stellarnetwork.com saying what you do (eg actor/writer/director/producer) in which media and when you’d like to come. Space is limited as the sessions are small and the debate lively- so be prepared with an opinion! Please let Stellar Network know in your email if you are a Stellar Network member, and if you want two seats please ask the other person to mail us separately.

Please note Stella Network will be actively seeking submissions from writers who are in the process of writing scripts rather than polished pieces of work.

Open Page is held at The Hospital Club, 24 Endell St, Covent Garden.

Stellar Network

London Book Fair : Masterclasses

London Book Fair and The Daily Mail are holding four separate masterclasses on Saturday 4th March 2006 at ExCeL London, Platinum Suite, One Western Gateway, Royal Victoria Dock, London E16 1XL (nearest tube: Custom House on the DLR)

Featuring high profile authors, the sessions will be enlightening, entertaining and contain plenty of audience participation including advice and top tips on how to turn work in progress into the next bestseller.

Cost per masterclass per person is £25 (incl VAT) or £45 to attend two classes.

The following masterclass sessions will be held on Saturday 4th March 2006 at ExCeL London:

***

Writing Fiction (1) at 10.30 am - 1.30pm

Authors particating: Margaret Atwood Joanna Trollope Sara Paretsky

***

Writing For Screen at 10.30 am - 1.30pm

Authors participating: Amy Jenkins Deborah Moggach Tim Firth Christopher Hampton

***

Writing Fiction (2) at 2.30pm - 5.30pm

Authors participating: Helen Dunmore Monica Ali Hari Kunzru

***

Writing For Children at 2.30pm - 5.30pm

Chair: Nikki Gamble

Authors participating: Geraldine McCaughrean Siobhan Dowd Meg Rosoff Philip Ardagh

For more information go to www.lbf-virtual.com

20 February, 2006

The British Short Screenplay Competition 2006


I've been reluctant to publicise this which may seem strange considering that competitions are one of the best ways for screenwriters to get noticed and that the partners in this contest are prestigious. Kaos Films are a proper company not some fly-by-night charlatans.

I suppose I am wary because it is basically a sort of tontine. The £25 (or £35 for the final deadline) "administration fee" is used to help fund the production of the winning film but in reality 95% of the scripts submitted will not be of a quality to reach the shortlisting stage. And so new writers may be better off buying 25 lotto tickets or putting the money towards making the short film themselves.

If I had to cough up a pony every time I submitted a script I thought was brilliant but was in fact... erm.. pony (bloody confusing cockney rhyming slang...) in the early stage of my career, I would have gone bankrupt. When you start out, the writer's essential self-critical faculties have not developed properly yet and it takes time for it to do so.

That's why the BBC writersroom (see link opposite) is so important in that if you send in something completely wrong they send you a polite no thanks and all you've lost is some postage and pride. But eventually, if you keep trying and keep improving, you end up with a commission. Of course Kaos Films has slightly less money than the BBC and can't afford to do that. Reading is expensive and the readers time has to be paid for. However these are short films where the obviously unsuitable 95% can be dismissed quite quickly.

Having said all that, I leave it up to you to decide. But I note there is no mention of the fee in their advert. Why be so coy?

"Kaos Films are proud to announce The British Short Screenplay Competition 2006 is now accepting submissions.

In this the fifth year of the competition we have made it better than ever for you. The winning writer will not only have their screenplay produced but will be invited to The British Independent Film Awards star studded evening and receive an award.

The panel of judges for this year's competition includes: Kenneth Branagh, Michael Kuhn, Sir Alan Parker, Nik Powell, and Stephen Woolley.

All the finalists will be invited to apply to the National Film and Television School and offered an interview with the writing school panel. Ten runners-up will receive screenwriting software.

The British Short Screenplay Competition is sponsored by: Ascent Media, Kodak, Panavision, Pinewood-Shepperton Studios, Screenplay Systems and Working Title Films.

Early deadline: April 14th.

Final deadline: May 26th.

For full details and entry forms please visit www.kaosfilms.co.uk "

13 February, 2006

The Last Laugh

The Last Laugh was a reality TV show where viewers were invited to compete to win a commission from BBC3 by finishing in their own way one of eight sitcom pilots from established writers. One of those pilots would become a broadcast pilot. (Although the only BBC3 style script is Love for Sale).

Almost as an adjunct the series also contains some information useful to new writers. So far this tends to be about 5-10 minutes out of a 60 minute show. As a comedy fan it’s interesting, as a comedy writer however it’s very disappointing.

Last week’s episode had this useful bit from writer and stand-up Judy Carter who wrote The Comedy Bible.

‘If you’re a young writer and you’re watching TV and go “Oh, I could write funnier stuff than that.” Your first step – get off the couch! Move! Take the joint out of your mouth! Put the beer down! And you actually have to write something. The difference between people who go, “I’m funny, I could be great…” You have to write something. So I think the first step if you’re a writer, take a little…They have these great digital tape recorders and take them to parties, and just…In the middle of the sex, just go “Wait, hold that thought one second”, “You know women are weird, because they want blah, blah, blah…”. And tape it. And then write it because it will have the energy of the moment.

‘Stand up comics are never like, “Oh, I’m so together. It’s great. I’ve reached cosmic consciousness, I studied with the Maharishi” No! We’re really screwed up people but what we are willing to do is take it open, expose it and put a humorous spin on it. And if you can do that and really come from your gut and don’t try to go: “let me decide on a persona…”, the audience will decide what persona you have.’

Incidentally you’ll notice I deliberately transcribed it the way she said it without editing it. That’s how people talk, with incomplete sentences and errors and slang and so on and so forth. If you’re having trouble with your dialogue – or, more pertinently, if script readers are having trouble – I'd suggest getting a digital recorder, as our Judy says, and just randomly tape conversations and listen to them. As well as learning how to write better dialogue, they may spark ideas for stories and characters and, if you’re really lucky, your secret recording may even be helpful in extorting money off people.

The other useful thing from that show was something the writers of the original script, Ian Brown & James Hendrie, said:

“It’s not the situation, situation comedy is a misnomer because the situation is the least important thing about it.”

“It’s funny people doing funny things.”

The winning ending for the script dealt with on the show is being posted each week at the official site.



09 February, 2006

Scriptwriter Masterclasses

Low Budget Scriptwriting with Phil Parker

Warp X, Kwerty, the Film Council and other companies are all financing low-budget films. In fact the fastest growing sector in the film industry is low-budget. Can you master it to tell your story in a gripping, cinematic and low-budget way?

Phil Parker is a leading screenplay consultant whose clients include Aardman Animation, UK Film Council, Berlin Brandenburg Medienboard, Mob films, Northern Film & Media and numerous independent writers, directors and producers.

He is currently Skillset's consultant on development and screenwriters training. He is also the author of 'The Art & Science of Screenwriting' and has lectured around the world. The Founder and Course Director of the MA Screenwriting course at the London College of Communication, where graduates have won the Palm d'Or, BAFTAs, been Oscar nominated and have hundreds of television credits to their names.

Saturday 25 February 2006. Held at RADA, Malet St, London WC1E 7JN. Tickets £60 only. All classes run from 10am-5pm (9.30am registration). Book now at RADA Box Office 020 7908 4800.

For more information and details of other one-day courses: www.scriptwritermagazine.com

Open Eye on the lookout for writers

Open Eye Productions is currently inviting new and established screenwriters to send in their ideas for British Based Features Films.

The Project:

Open Eye are keen to throw the door open for writers of all ages and experience. For the successful applicant this is the opportunity to work closely with the Development Team and Producers to package and fast-track your project for Independent Film Production.

We are specifically looking for films for production within the UK. We will consider any genre though we are keen to source a Romantic Comedy.

Submitted material must be original to the applicant and cannot be based on pre-existing works such as novels, comics or stage plays.

Applicants must have a full length screenplay draft available with an estimated duration of 75-100 minutes. However due to the number of submissions, no scripts will be accepted or assessed at this stage. Instead we would like a brief summary of the project.

Each applicant must submit the following:

40 Word Synopsis

40 Words describing a central character

Please send via email to

admin@openeye.co.uk

or post to

Development, Open Eye Productions Ltd, 4th Floor, 47 Dean Street, London W1D 5BE (Please include an email address in your contact information. Any submitted material via post is non-returnable.)

Deadline for Submissions: Monday 13 March 2006

Successful applicants will be contacted by the Development Team via email, and will then be required to send in a complete screenplay draft of their project and a CV.

Further details about Open Eye Productions can be found on our website or by emailing the Development Team.

01 February, 2006

Scriptunities

Scriptunities

"The latest Update has 7 pages of competitions, opportunities and links for Screenwriters!

Scriptunities is a unique free guide to current opportunities, competitions and script calls within the UK and Euroland."